Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Exmouth, Coral Bay & The Ningaloo Reef

 Exmouth lies north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The town of just 2,500 is the gateway to the Cape Range National Park & the Ningaloo Reef on the other side of the peninsula. The area is almost 1/2 way between Broome & Perth. Another statistic of Exmouth is there is no wet season, with 320 days of sunshine each year.
North West Cape is the tip of the peninsula that stretches approx 60 kms from the mainland coast line. Hump back whales were spotted playing in the Indian Ocean from the lookout.

Just around the tip is the 1907 wreck of SS Mildura, a cattle ship that grounded during a cyclone.

Because the coastline is so rugged, the Vlamingh Head lighthouse was built 4 yrs following the ship wreck of SS Mildura.

Cape Range National Park covering over 47,000 hectares of elevated limestone range with plateaus of up to 314 mtrs high, forms the spine of the peninsula. It has many gorges with spectacular escarpments that have been eroded away by ancient rivers.
 We visited & took a 2 hr return walk to the Shothole Canyon Lookout from the Charles Knife  road.
These are some of the spectacular  views we saw from the lookout.
The lookout looks down onto the Shothole Canyon.

We passed many other gorges along the 12km road.

We also had views of the Exmouth Gulf in the distance.

Shothole Canyon was named after the shot holes left by seismographic explosions during oil searches in the 1950's.
Shothole Canyon was just as spectacular from inside the canyon as it was from the earlier lookout.

I somehow don't think seismographic activity caused these beautifully carved escarpments along the road into the gorge.

1 of the locals catching some sun knowing no hawks case it's territory. Looking rather relaxed, don't you think.

Another local is the freshly caught tasty prawns.

The sealed road through Cape Range National Park ends at Yardie Creek. The creek & it's gorge is the only permanent creek in the national park.

 Yardie Creek  flows into the Indian Ocean.
The views of the multi coloured gorge were spectacular.

This is the beach near the gorge & creek outlet, inviting indeed.
Shifting sand dunes is taking care of this track down / up to the beach :)

The darker blue water, not far from the beach is the spectacular Ningaloo Reef. The reef is 260 km long and is Australia's largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef positioned very close to a landmass.
There were over 20 areas we could choose from to snorkel from along the Ningaloo Reef around North West Cape.

Parts of the western coast line is quite rugged. This is Osprey Bay
The ancient limestone had many old fossils.

Many bays also had long white sandy beaches like Sandy Bay.

The white break waves form the edge of the shallower parts of the reef, in some areas less than 100 mtrs from the beach.
Oyster Stacks, named because there were many of these oyster stacks, was 1 of the better places to snorkel right off the beach. This was my 1st snorkeling experience in quite a while, so I was a little nervous how I'd go here as I'm not a big fan of the ocean. The experience was simply amazing.

Getting into the water posed a little problem though. We either had to walk further up the bay to the sandy area, or step over the sharp limestone.

Another local inhabitant, coming out during low tide.

Turquoise Bay  stretches for many hundreds of metres. The high sandy beach also becomes a nesting ground for green turtles in the months Sept to March.

The very long Turquoise Bay beach. We snorkeled in a drift along this section of the bay. The coral & fish here were also amazing. This area was my 3rd go at snorkeling for the day, & was I  getting the hang of it really well. I was a little disappointed when we had to return the hired gear.

This area is  Mangrove Bay with  a bird hide. Just as well we couldn't go any further as the area is covered in sharp limestone rock.

The drive to Coral Bay 150kms south, was dotted with hundreds of  large termite mounds like this 1.

Coral Bay is only a little town of  192 residents during the summer months.
No wonder  the population changes 10 fold with nomadic holidaymakers from May to Oct. We parked our van just across the road from this glorious flat white sandy beach & bay of crystal clear water. Our planned 2 day stay stretched out to 3.

Aren't the colours amazing?????????
The bay had no drift & we snorkeled  straight off the beach - after we bought our own gear :-)

We visited the boat ramp & anchorage on advice from 1 of the temporary locals. It was great advice as the views were amazing here as well.

I think Rod was wishing he had his fishing gear with him this day :-)

We booked ourselves a 2 hr glass bottom boat & snorkel tour. The tour takes us out to within 100mtrs of the break waves & to the deeper coral reef.

The coral on the way out was different to to what we've seen further north near Exmouth. Most of the coral also lacks colour due to less tropical temps.

I have a video camera that can be taken to a depth of 3 mtrs of water & also takes photos. The photos unfortunately are almost always not as good quality as my normal camera.

Parrot fish are quite colourful. & we could hear them chewing off the coral.

The views from the glass bottom boat to the beach were lovely

more pics of some of the locals

On the way to Carnarvon we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn - approx equivelent to Rockhampton in Qld & just north of Alice Springs in NT. No special monuments here though like there is in NT. The pic is taken from our moving car of others posing.

Point Quobba & the blowhole is close to Carnarvon. The coast is quite rugged again & is quite spectacular during extra windy weather.

The following few pics were taken on a windy day, but not blowing a gale

I went back the next day as the wind was almost gale force & took some amazing pics of waves thundering into the rocky coast.

The blowhole was rather tame on the previous day

compared to the next day................

Point Quobba has another outstanding feature also - it's aquarium. It's not really an aquarium as such, but a half enclosed protected & very shallow bay where reef coral, hundreds of colourful clams, sea urchins living in small holes & hundreds of reef fish of all sizes & colour. The only downside to snorkeling here was that the water was quite cold after being in it for more than 1/2 hr :(
 Pic taken at low tide

I think this area was the best snorkeling experience of all the other areas along the Ningaloo Reef.

More pics of coral & fish, taken with my video camera

 sea urchins hiding in holes in the coral

 the parrot fish swim too fast sometimes...........

very sorry I got carried away with the pics.................( my videos fortunately are better quality --- & more quantity ! )
  It was just so beautiful, & most of the fish din't mind us intruding on their territory

I loved the experience & can't wait to get back there again, or any other reef........................
(maybe next time when the whale sharks usually visit the area)

I loved the aptly named 'Coral Coast' , & I loved it more so by seeing it all straight off the beach :-)

1 comment:

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